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Eye On Boise

2016 legislation likely on broadband, in works on public defense reform

The Legislative Council is hearing reports from the Legislative interim committees today. Among them:

BROADBAND ACCESS STUDY COMMITTEE: Staffer Brooke Brourman said the panel has met three times and heard 31 presentations, “and really they were all chock-full of information.” The group’s next meeting on Nov. 20 will be a facilitated roundtable discussion centered around the various proposals and recommendations it’s heard at its earlier meetings; former state school technology director Will Goodman will be the facilitator.

House Speaker Scott Bedke asked if the panel is likely to present specific legislative changes to the Legislature this year, and Brourman said yes.

House Minority Leader John Rusche said, “I serve on that committee, and I was really amazed at how disjoined the utilization of telecommunications and internet is in the state. I went into the committee thinking gee, whenever ITD is doing a new road they put conduit in … they don’t. They did for a while and then they stopped. There really is not any organized vision assisting the development of this necessary utility.” He added, “I expect to come out of that, besides maybe some statutory changes around the Idaho Education Network, a clear expression of how important it is to the future of the state and some opportunities for state government to push the development through the private sector in the service of telecommunications.”

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said he serves on both the broadband committee and the interim committee on state purchasing laws, and cautioned that one challenge will be to ensure that the recommendations of both panels are consistent. “So it’s not going to be easy to get everything pulled together, but I do believe you will see some express proposals,” Davis said. “And frankly it may well be that the Legislature will need to consider these proposals only as interim proposals until you can work out the rest of the purchasing law requirements that are out there. … It has been a learning experience. But there is a lot that exists today to get it in Idaho the last mile.”

NATURAL RESOURCES INTERIM COMMITTEE: Staffer Katharine Gerrity reported that the committee met Oct. 16. It heard presentations on Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer issues; heard from the Department of Lands on alternatives that are being discussed regarding public access to endowment lands, including possible fees for recreational use; heard a sage grouse update; and was briefed on the fire season on state-protected lands, which as of Oct. 13 had seen the number of acres burned hit 617 percent of the 20-year average.

The panel also heard updates on the North Idaho water adjudication; the Clean  Water Act, the Columbia River Treaty, oil and gas activities in Payette County, suction dredge mining, and rangeland fire protection districts.

IDAHO COUNCIL ON INDIAN AFFAIRS: This panel has not yet met this year, but will meet Dec. 8 in Boise. It will have three new members: Blaine Edmo, who was elected chairman of the business council for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes; Lindsey Manning, who was elected chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe; and Anthony Johnson, who was elected chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe’s tribal council following the retirement of Silas Whitman, who was vice-chair of the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs.

PUBLIC DEFENSE REFORM INTERIM COMMITTEE: The committee has met twice this year and will meet again next Tuesday. It’s discussed possible funding options for public defense reforms and the potential role of the Public Defense Commission in enforcing qualifications, standards and reporting requirements for public defenders, reported staffer Ryan Bush. He said as a result of those discussions, staffers are working with the panel’s co-chairs on draft legislation. “It will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting at length,” Bush said.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, asked if the legislation would be “a solution or an incremental step.” Bush responded, “I think the committee’s intention is to present legislation this year to get that process started on fixing the public defense system. It may not fix everything right away in this bill, but if the committee agrees on a bill, which will start on Tues, I think that will be presented in 2016.”

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REINVESTMENT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: This panel is scheduled to meet on Nov. 19 in Boise. Its agenda will include “a lot of agency-specific updates on the justice reinvestment initiative and how it’s progressing,” Bush reported.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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